INVESTING heavily into a farm business in this day and age may seem like a daunting commitment, but for one farming family, based near Kilbirnie, in North Ayrshire, who underwent the development of a modern housing facility, fitted with a new 20/40 rapid exit DeLaval parlour, they have seen their dairy herd go from strength to strength.

The Scottish Farmer:
Brothers, Alex, Tom and Hugh Logan, along with Tom’s sons, Alistair and Stuart, farm 5000 acres across three units, including the dairy unit at Holehouse which compromises 350 acres, 650 acres of lowland ground at Glengarth, where they run a beef enterprise of 185 suckler cows, and 4000 acres of hill ground at Plan, which is home to 1750 Blackface ewes.
Now farming in the fifth generation and having milked cows since the late 1880s, the investment of a new housing unit on a greenfield site in 2014 has enabled some massive improvements to this predominantly red and white Holstein herd.
The shed, constructed by Ve-Tech Concrete, measures a whopping 195ft x 150ft and includes the installation of a new and improved parlour, along with various other new amenities.
“Since we moved to the new shed, we’ve managed to increase the herd from 145 to its maximum holding capacity of 250.
“The 16/16 herringbone parlour installed in 1997 and the old buildings used for housing were getting past their sell by date, not to mention the poor weather in this part of the country which was hard on the cows and made grazing tougher,” said Alistair, commenting that all milking cows are now housed inside all year round, in individual cubicles and on RMS (recycled manure solids) bedding.

The Scottish Farmer:
Eldest brother Alex who usually carries out the evening milking, alongside his wife Helen, added: “If we hadn’t made these recent developments we probably wouldn’t be dairying today.
“The old cubicles were too small for the cows which have been getting bigger and bigger over the years, therefore they weren’t performing as well as they could.”
While milk yields have improved by almost 2500litres per year in the new unit to 10,150 litres at 4.15% BF and 3.35%P, compared to 7500 litres, hygiene and the wellbeing of the cows has also improved significantly.
Alistair said: “Although the cows are on concrete all year round now, their feet are in better condition and they have more space in these cubicles, resulting in less bumps and bruises.”
An added luxury in the new parlour which helps maintain the condition of feet and minimises the risk of foot rot, is an electronic footbath. Cows pass through the footbath twice a day after each milking, which automatically refills and washes accordingly.

The Scottish Farmer:
Impressively, although milking a lot more cows with the same amount of staff, the new parlour has meant that 100 cows can now be milked within an hour, compared to the old system where it took an hour to milk just 60.
In turn, the team at Holehouse believe this has led to better fertility and cow health. With all cows AI’d, they’ve also found that sexed semen has worked more effectively in the new set up due to the cows expressing better levels of heat. As a result, calving interval has come down by 20 days to around 400 days.
Having milked in a traditional byre and then into the herringbone, the Logans have never looked back since the cows first went through the new rapid exit parallel parlour.
Enabling a high throughput with fast milking processes and quick changes from one group to the next, the cows are at their best comfort with a wide walking lane, a spacious turning area and front exit segments in front.
Furthermore, they are in a comfortable position when being milked, with an automatic dipping and flushing system. Additional space within the shed has meant that all cows can be gathered in one collecting area and run as one group during milking too.
Fitted to one side of the shed is a climate controlled sheet which helps improve ventilation throughout the shed, with Alistair pointing out that during the few warm days that there has been, the shed was cooler inside than outside.
In terms of lightning, energy saving LED lights are controlled by a timer and sensor to allow cows to achieve 16 hours of daylight, which in turn, can increase milk yields.
On the floor of the shed, the pre-grooved slats, designed in Belgium, have proved popular too, with less cases of cows slipping. Due to them being pre-grooved, muck flows much better through the slats compared to conventional types.
Man hours have been saved too when it comes to scraping muck and pushing in silage, having made two purchases from Lely, including the Juno which pushes in silage 18 times a day, subsequently cutting fuel costs too.

The Scottish Farmer:
On the other hand, a similar robot for scraping up slurry, named the Disco automatically cleans whenever need be. It has helped prevent hoof problems and keeps tails and udders clean.
RMS bedding which is better known as ‘green bedding’ has also been a great success at Holehouse, since shifting away from the traditional slats and sawdust.
With increased costs and reduced availability of bedding sources, particularly in the west of the country, the Logans opted for more of an accessible, cost-effective and sustainable alternative.
Since then, they’ve seen an improvement in cleanliness of cows, including the udders, and a benefit to the condition of cow’s hocks.
“The cows could not be more happy and comfortable on the green bedding.  They’re much cleaner now and they’re probably cleaner than the dry cows which are out during the summer months,” commented Alistair.
In contrast to the old system, all slurry is stored underground in a 1.3m gallon tank.
Fitted with a separator which can separate the required amount for bedding, it is capable of producing this material at a dry matter level of 38%. Air is introduced to the slurry to keep it mixed at all times and aid aerobic digestion. More so, this reduces smell.
Through the use of EID tags, cow yields can be monitored closely, allowing segregation in terms of regular vet checks, feeding, foot trimming and Ai’ing.
Cows were also introduced to a new feeding system, with a TMR ration fed to all, providing maintenance plus 25 litres.
Anything producing more than 25 litres receives a cake to yield diet in out of parlour feeders, with a maximum of 2kg of feed provided on each visit.
“Feed wise, everything is much more consistent now over the 365 days,” said Alistair. “When the cows were outside in the summer and grazing from field to field, the milk quantity was going up and down all the time.”
With rain levels having increased over the last three years giving an annual rainfall of 80 inches, the Logans are now in the process of building a second shed (100ft by 100ft) with the intention to house dry cows, in-calf heifers and bulling heifers all year round.
Also constructed by Ve-Tech and able to house up to 120 cattle, a maximum of 450,000 gallons of slurry can be situated below, replacing the above ground store.
“It isn’t doing them any favours being outside and we’ve witnessed so many improvements to the milking cows now that they’re inside all year round,” said Alistair – and, who wouldn’t be when the weather has been as poor as it has in recent months.